THE POWER OF THE PEN: WHAT ROLE CAN JOURNALISTS PLAY IN FIGHTING INJUSTICE?
Thursday 20 August 2020
As social welfare lawyers working to bring about justice for our clients, we underestimate at our peril the power of the press in raising public consciousness about the underlying issues. In this panel event we’ll hear from four brilliant journalists about their work exposing injustice.
We are delighted to be joined by Guardian journalist Amelia Gentleman, freelance reporter Nick Wallis, Liberty Investigates journalist Mirren Gidda and Bureau of Investigative Journalism reporter and winner of the 2020 Private Eye Paul Foot Award Alexandra Heal.
After their presentations we’ll open up the floor for questions and debate.
CHAIR: LUCIE BOASE
Lucie is a trainee solicitor at Hodge Jones & Allen Solicitors and a co-chair of Young Legal Aid Lawyers. Prior to entering law Lucie dabbled a little in the world of journalism, and once spent an incredibly hot summer interning at the Daily Star newspaper in Beirut, Lebanon. These days, she very occasionally writes for the Justice Gap and Legal Action Magazine, and is hoping to get back into writing properly again soon.
Amelia is a multi-award winning Guardian journalist, and famously
uncovered the scandal of West Indian immigrants and their families being threatened
with deportation, subsequently writing ‘The Windrush Betrayal: Exposing the Hostile
Environment’. She attended Oxford University before reporting New Delhi for the
International Herald Tribune. She then moved to the Guardian, as correspondent in
Paris then Moscow, latterly becoming a feature writer for the paper. In late 2017 she
received an initial email tip-off which led to six months’ work charting the Windrush
scandal, leading ultimately to the resignation of the Home Secretary Amber Rudd.
Amelia has won some of the most prestigious awards in British journalism, including
the Orwell Prize, the Paul Foot Award and the Cudlipp Award.
Mirren is an investigative journalist at Liberty Investigates. Prior to joining Liberty, Mirren worked as the storytelling and digital media manager at the international human rights organisation The Syria Campaign, where she worked to uncover human rights abuses in Syria and tell them to a wider audience. An award-nominated journalist, she began her career as an intern at TIME magazine before taking up a place on the BBC’s Journalism Training Scheme where she was trained in television and radio reporting. From there she joined Newsweek magazine where she reported on conflict and human rights abuses from countries worldwide, securing six cover stories. Mirren then moved into documentary journalism, presenting an episode of Channel 4’s award-winning investigative series Unreported World, before studying for her MA in Terrorism, Security, and Society. Outside of Liberty, she volunteers as a visitor for people held in immigration detention.
Mirren’s focus areas at Liberty include policing and counterterrorism, and she retains an interest in the UK’s prison system.
Nick Wallis was working as a breakfast show presenter for BBC Surrey in 2010 when a cab driver told him his pregnant wife had been sent to prison for a crime she didn’t commit. As Nick found out, she wasn’t alone. In the 15 years after it rolled out its Horizon IT accounting system the Post Office prosecuted hundreds of Subpostmasters and counter workers for theft, fraud and false accounting, criminalising and ruining people on the basis of IT evidence. Many of those convictions now appear likely to be unsafe.
Nick has spent the last ten years documenting the scandal, working in his own time to get ad hoc commissions, crowdfunding his output and eventually co-writing a Private Eye special, presenting an episode of Panorama and a ten-part series for BBC Radio 4. Earlier this year the story was described in parliament as “one of the worst disasters in public life since the contaminated blood scandal”.
Alexandra is an investigative reporter at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Her work for the Bureau on domestic abuse by police officers won the Private Eye Paul Foot Award 2020 and led to lawyers at the Centre for Women’s Justice submitting a nationwide "super-complaint" with police regulators. She reports with Andrew Wasley on the impacts of global industrial agriculture for the Bureau's environment strand, notably Amazon deforestation. She previously freelanced for BBC News abroad and in the UK, and for the Guardian.